October 24, 2010
Home Recording, Songwriting
In the Ancient Days, the only way to record a song was to get your guitar (or whatever) ready, hit the “Record” button and simply play the entire song straight through. If you wanted additional instruments or vocals, you listened to the existing tracks as you recorded those new parts, playing straight through the whole song each time.
The capability of “punching in” new material to fix weak passages in an otherwise great part began to break this pattern, but you were still basically playing (or singing) the song all the way through every time you put on a new instrument or vocal.
With the current-day DAW software that so many of us use (GarageBand, Logic, Cubase, etc.), you can still record a song this way if you want to. But, the amazing editing capabilities of even the simplest of these software packages allow you to take your creativity down paths that simply never existed before.
As an example, let me lead you through the process I followed to create a song that was never played all the way through by anybody, but rather was “assembled” from selected bits of previously recorded musical parts.
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December 18, 2009
In language learning, there is a technique called immersion, in which the student spends her time surrounded only by people speaking the new language. The idea is to force the brain to quickly burn all kinds of new neural pathways as necessity becomes the mother of quick learning. Over time, the new language begins to feel like a natural part of the student’s surroundings, and soon enough she finds herself joining in, effortlessly speaking to others by simply mimicking what she has heard them say.
Interestingly, a similar approach can be applied to expanding your songwriting horizons. Here, the plan is to first identify a musical genre that you would like to write in but know little about. It might be reggae, or show tunes, or 50s rock-n-roll, or….well, pretty much anything! Then, make a point of listening to that kind of music, lots of it, by lots of artists, over a period of two or three weeks. If possible, listen to nothing but this kind of music! The idea is to immerse yourself in this genre. (You needn’t make any specific effort to notice musical details like what beat the snare is on or anything like that. Just let it wash over you - then rinse and repeat!)
After a few weeks of this, when you go to write a song in that general style, guess what - the tools you need will be right at your fingertips!
[An expanded version of this Mini-Tip (with an example) appears in my eBook, Cheap Advice On Songwriting.]
June 30, 2008
Usually, I want to put as much time into writing each new song as it needs, sometimes setting it aside for a short (or long) period of time and returning to it later, maybe a few times, before finally declaring it “done.” Even if a song comes quickly and seems to be “ready to go” an hour after you started writing, I would still recommend letting it sit and stew for awhile. You will likely find yourself making small fixes and improvements that, taken together, will make the song really great.
The trouble with this approach is that it’s so casual. Without any pressure to work on them, some songs never do get finished. (Perhaps that’s for the best.) The casual style is fun and easy. But oftentimes, people do their best work, including creative work, under a time constraint or other kind of limitation. It might be worth it for you to experience some pressure in your songwriting and see what results!
One way to set up some time pressure on yourself is to commit to writing and recording a complete song in one evening. You start right after dinner with a blank pad of paper, and before you hit the sack you have to have a complete song with instruments and vocals all finished and at least a rough mix produced. (I guess you can go back and remix it later if you must.)
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